1

Oh, Passover…

About 48 hours to go, and although I haven’t quite hit the signs of “too much Passover” yet, I’m getting there.

Literally, I’m thinking about food 24/7, waking up in the night hungry, and pounding down the matzah just wishing I had some hummus. And I can’t even remember the last time I ate hummus.

Anyway, I should probably go and get some reading done for fun in this brief break between writing deadlines.

Keep the faith, celebrate your freedom, and chag same’ach, y’all

2

Undergrads These Days

So, this weekend I’m heading up to Eau Claire for the APO Sectionals conference, where I’m teaching 2 workshops on varying topics to (hopefully) a bunch of undergrads.

What’s really getting to me, though, is just how busy these undergrads are. Or seem to be.

I know that college students are at that age where they don’t yet know the meaning of commitment, or how to balance a cost/benefit ratio in life, but I think that it’s somehow gotten worse. Initially, 33 people from the chapter signed up to go to the conference this weekend, and now I think we’ll be lucky if even 15 make it. And there are some other groups that are not going at all, somewhat due to drivers/cost but mostly because of the all-too-vague “I’m busy.”

I mean, seriously. Too busy to take a weekend to have fun, learn, get a change of scenery, and study if you have a spare moment.

I know that school comes first, but usually, the phrase is followed by “I have an exam this week.” Only, it seems like I hear this from someone every week, for one reason or another. In the course I teach, we have just 2 exams – a midterm and a final – and I don’t think that either of them would require a student to spend 48 hours studying. But it seems like all these undergrads, whether they be in APO or students I teach, are constantly having exams in all their other classes, usually math and hard sciences. I constantly get emails from students who were absent that week saying that they had an exam right before and were tired after, or had an exam right after and studied all day right up until the exam started. One student emailed us saying that he had 3 exams in one day.

What is with all these exams? Why do they need to exist?

At this point, I try to put myself in the shoes of an undergrad, thinking back to my undergrad days, which were almost a decade ago. Granted, I did not have much of a social life, but I don’t ever remember having a constant barrage of exams, or a weekend where all I did was study. In fact, to this day, in my ten years of being a student in higher education, I have never even pulled an all-nighter. I remember doing some homework on weekends, but I usually spent at least 1 weekend a semester out of town, like the time I flew down to Baltimore for a play premiere, or when I drove to New York City and back in 48 hours to go to my aunt’s wedding. I worked a lot, and I worked hard, but I managed to have down time in there, which is why I did get down on myself a lot.

But that’s beside the point.

To this end, I look back even further, to my freshman year. I was leaning towards majoring in theater, but I still took the requisite English and Math courses. At the same time, my sister was a junior, majoring in early childhood education. I still remember talking on the phone with my parents my second semester, and my dad told me that I seemed to be working harder as a freshman than my sister had in her three years thus far. Granted, she didn’t graduate with a 3.5 GPA like I did, and she had this thing where she wanted to see how long she could go without going to the library (turns out that she never even set foot in the campus library, in all four years). Still, she got a job offer in her field, right out of college, and has had it ever since. Even though I only graduated with a 3.5, and granted, I didn’t get my dream job, I still somehow managed to muddle through, get my master’s and into my Ph.D. program. Both of the above outcomes, working world and higher ed, were feasible without constant studying or an all-nighter.

So, I don’t know what today’s college students’ excuses are. Unless my sister and I had the world’s easiest majors (which we probably did not) or were complete slackers, it seems to me that undergrads are working harder, and with the way this economy is going, probably for even less satisfying results.

I’m almost at that age where I say “kids these days…” with a dubious look, but something is definitely going on with today’s college students, whether it’s a lack of study skills or just a generation of vindictive professors.

4

On Being Needed

The last 48 hours have been among the most tumultuous in my life. Probably in most people’s lives, unless they lived through World War II or the Cuban Missile Crisis or something. In less time than it takes to get a jacket shipped to you from an online retailer, the United States of America has spun out of control. Mostly in its leadership, but also in its media, who can’t make heads or tails of anything anymore, and its people, who have become more divided than ever before. The last 48 hours have basically been a giant parade of insanity and inhumanity, from many different areas but most importantly from the highest office in the nation, which has now been turned into a colossal joke. I mean, it had to happen sometime. I just didn’t think it would be this soon.

What makes a difference is being needed. All weekend, I was off duty. No work or class, so I was free to mope about, play Pong between bed and couch, hide out at Colectivo or Hubbard Avenue Diner. Days spent on social media, eyes glazed over with saturated images, videos with digitally inserted sound bites, nights awake in fear and regret. Today, I didn’t want to get out of bed, but I had to. I didn’t know how I could teach, but it happened. I barely made it to my first class on time, but once I had put my stuff down, I was ready to get my teach on for 2 sections in 2 hours. Then, riding high, I got a tuna melt and a drink at Espresso Royale, hosted office hours (no students visited, but I got some other work/writing done), and trudged through the snow to APO. I gave Cindy a packet of stuff I’d been holding onto for her for a month, and she was so happy to get it. And the chapter prez and I had a long and fruitful conversation on our walk home.

And I felt…needed.

It was a good feeling.

When you are needed, or when someone else needs you, things change. You become more acutely aware of your surroundings. You are given tasks sometimes, and the tools to complete them. Most of all, you get to make a priority out of someone that is almost unknown but just as deserving of attention as any other human, and that is you.

Just being able to feel needed came me to willpower to get through the day.

Here’s Anne Murray

4

Ten Things I Don’t Understand About Myself/Things I Do But Don’t Know Why

I haven’t made a good list in a while, and it’s like having a good cry, so here goes.

Ten Things I Don’t Understand About Myself/Things I Do But Don’t Know Why

  1. I do laundry, but I cannot fold it until I know that there is something online or on TV that I want to watch so I can multitask. I can’t fold laundry without doing something else at the same time, and since laundry-folding requires two hands, TV just requires my two eyes.
  2. I wash dishes…in the morning, while my coffee is being made. Yep, that’s the only time I will hand-wash dishes. Usually I am still in pajamas so if I get splashed it’s not such a huge deal. That’s somewhat logical, but why not just wash them right away? And today I got Starbucks before going to work rather than making my own coffee, so…sorry, sink full of dishes.
  3. I can’t play Words with Friends while walking. Doesn’t work for me. Must be either seated, standing, or lying down.
  4. I never have any clothes, and then when I go on shopping sprees and spend a lot of money on clothes, they all seem to disappear. Currently, I’m down to two pairs of khakis, two pairs of dress pants, and ONE pair of jeans. Jeans don’t seem to last long, especially if you have an active life and are walking around campus all day.
  5. I tell everyone that I keep my car clean, but it’s really not clean. I mean, the front seat is okay, sometimes has some papers or pens on it, and the backseat isn’t bad, but I throw stuff in the trunk and have no idea how much has accumulated back there until I have to squish things to get my groceries in.
  6. I can’t ever have just one piece of gum. Right now, for example, I’m chewing four pieces, like some kind of barbarian.
  7. I have an order of how I read books, but I’m constantly forgetting it/changing it.
  8. I have shows I watch religiously online, but I’ve never seen an episode of said show live/on TV. Yep, the Late Show, Colbert Report, Late Late…and I’m usually awake, too. Watching clips on YouTube.
  9. I never use anything handicapped, except bathroom stalls. I feel like it’s just a bad omen, from parking spots to using ramps instead of steps. I think I walked up the ramp to get into my building once, because I was talking with someone, and I had a split-second anxiety attack. Handicapped bathroom stalls are fair game, because it would be quite rare for me to be using the stall when an actual handicapped person might need it, and if I’m in there, I’m usually out pretty quickly.
  10. I wait all day to post something, just before midnight. Even though I sometimes come up with multiple ideas a day, it takes me until the witching hour to get it down. It doesn’t matter whether I have a free hour for lunch or something, it doesn’t get from brain to blog until this time of day, when I’m already tired and stressed.
2

Some Goals for December

Hey y’all!

Okay, so now that the hellish month known as November is dunzo, and school/work is tapering off as winter break gets closer, and other stuff, it’s time for a comeback, and instead of lamenting my lack of quality ideas for posts, I’m just going to make this goals list for December and see how it goes:

Goals for December 2016

Blogging

  • Write something every day, or at least as close to that as possible.
  • Think of a new blogging project/game/blogsperiment for 2017.
  • Update/fix up some half-finished posts.

Real-Life Stuff

  • Work on finding new place to live.
  • Go through closet and determine what clothes need replacing.
  • Deep clean kitchen/bathroom.
  • Read more books, especially library books.

Finish strong!

10

Egads!

So yeah, November’s sort of been a slog so far. For more reasons than one, but a conversation today made me miss blogging. And even if I’m not putting out the most quality content, as long as I can put out some sort of content about something or other, then I’m doing okay. Or so I think. Something along those lines.

Also, inspired to possibly start a sub-blog/companion blog to go with TSJ to detail my teaching adventures, both at the college and elementary school level…not with a That’s So title, maybe more like…oh, I don’t know…Teach Blanket Bingo? Goals Within Teach? Help, I’m Trapped in a Never-Ending Cycle of Theater Called Life as a Teacher of All Ages? Not With That Kind of Attitude You Won’t? Blog of A Selfish Individual Who Enjoys Inflicting Arts-Based Education on the Innocent? My Teaching Philosophy is Screw You All I’m Going to Do What I Want in the Classroom Because it’s Not Hurting Others? Peeing In My Pants Excited About Teaching? One of these is probably a winner. Something along those lines.

Anyway, glad you’re here and reading this because just like the United States of America, my blog-spiration has sort of hit rock bottom these past couple of weeks. I have been hearing your prayers though, so thank you for those, and I feel a post of good quality brimming at the surface.

Unless it’s just those fish tacos I ate for lunch.

Going to check up on some other blogs now, and maybe make some salad.

2

Finally, A Productive Sunday

I know that October’s kind of been here’s-Jacob’s-boring-life month here at TSJ, but I’ve been in such a writing slump lately, or something like that. So, despite it being my day off from everything, and the garage door being broken so I had to Uber around town, I actually managed to get a lot of stuff done, including running for 45 minutes at the gym, spending an hour writing (604 words!), responding to a bunch of emails, finishing my work on my ATHE proposal, getting in an entry on the blog, and the best part, making edible brown rice.

And of course, I spilled some gravy or something on my pajamas and couch. I guess life isn’t perfect.

53

My First Post as a 29-Year-Old

Kind of felt apt to follow up the previous post with this title. So how are you?

Today was a busy day, if anything. I woke up at about 8, stayed in bed until 9. Took a shower, then treated myself to a birthday breakfast of pancakes, eggs, greens, biscuit, and ice coffee at Short Stack, then went to see a panel at the South Asia Conference at the Concourse. Then headed across campus to my office to meet up with Jenna to talk about APO stuff, and after that, to the Semi-Annual Library Book Sale where $16.50 got me a brand new pile for my apartment. Once home, I checked my blog stats, read some blog posts, replied to a bunch of emails, and watched some YouTube videos. Following that, I had planned to run a few errands but ended up only getting to Metcalfe’s for groceries. Had no time for gym, so I went over to Hanna’s for a dinner she was preparing for me.

And let me just say, I was not expecting this.

I get to Hanna’s place, there’s a ton of people there, and even more show up, until we’re roughly 20. 20 people! We ate out back in her sukkah, and then sang and danced around the campfire. Hanna played keyboard, with Edi on sax, Ken on guitar, and Jennifer on the drums. I sang along with Baobei, Esty, Gidon, Bonnie, Bobbie, Jessica, and Andrea, while Haruki watched from the side, and Mohamed, Roger, Judy, David, and Larry watched from the sukkah (I think that’s everyone!). Andrea cooked most of the dinner, which was fabulous: chicken and rice, edamame, lentils, and veggies. And for dessert, Hanna brought out not one but TWO birthday cakes, an orange-and-lemon cake made by Judy, and a tangy, zesty tangerine cake by la Andrea. Judy’s cake was moist and warm, while Andrea’s was juicier, with a little kick to it. After hanging around the remnants of the fire with Baobei, Haruki, Bobbie, Roger, Jennifer, and Raimund (who showed up out of the blue), it was time to go home.

So now I’m sitting on my couch at 11:30 PM on my 29th birthday, Friday, October 21st, 2016.

Jameson invited me out to Plan B, but I might just call it a night, since I have to be up tomorrow around 7 and my bed is covered in books.

Thank you to everyone who made this normally anxiety-inducing day into an amazing one for me.

And for the last time until 2017…

Happy birthday to me. 🙂

31

My Last Post as a 28-Year-Old

So, here it is again.

It comes around every 365 days or so. In the East Coast, it’s already here, and it’ll be here in Wisconsin in less than an hour. My most favorite and least favorite day of the whole year; my birthday.

I’ve posted about birthdays in the past. I’ve had some good ones, some bad ones, some really bad ones, and this year it’s looking like my birthday’s going to be a busy one, but hopefully a good one.

So, in my last 30 minutes as a 28 year old, I am currently sitting on my couch, alone, watching too-loud infomercials about cleaning products in between tiny snips of The Golden Girls. My apartment is, as usual, a hideous mess. I just got home from dance class, after which I had a tea shake at Sencha. I’m still a little sweaty, and I’m wearing my black Fosse t-shirt, black pants, black socks, a bracelet, a blue bandana, and my gray APO quarter-zip. Along with me on my couch are various pieces of scripts, my gradebook, my phone, a box of tissues, papers to grade, some stickers, a fleece jacket and a red pillow. I actually did clean off some of the coffee table the other day, so there just the usual pile of books and some spare cash, plus a Starbucks from this morning, my meds, candles, and some other odds and ends. Other than dreading the dental work next week and being a little sore in my legs and hips from an hour of cardio followed by an hour of jive kicks (but a good sore). On my mind: how I’m going to get through all I have to do this weekend, working on my papers (writing and grading) – aww, cute puppies on TV – getting my lesson plan together for next week, figuring out what I need from the grocery store/dollar store, ATHE proposals, and dance routines.

Anyway.

I think I’ll finish watching this episode of The Golden Girls, then get myself some food and my third shower of the day (or first, of tomorrow), and then go to bed and do some pleasure reading.

Happy birthday to me. Send some love if you’re so inclined for the world’s newest 29-year-old.

15

In Praise of Holiday Time

Since my planner was empty, I decided to take the evening off from commitments and just watch TV and get some chores done around the apartment. Then, I remembered what I wanted to write about.

Growing up, Shabbat and holiday time was a time to unplug. No computer, no phone, no music…just the noises of people, and silence. And no car either, so your feet were the way to go. I think it started around college, when I was far from home and the work piled on. And that began my less-religious streak.

These days, I try to spend as much time as I can on Shabbat and holidays being observant, but I’ve either got some sort of commitment, have work to do, or just get too bored and realize that I’m an adult and I can do what I want.

But yesterday, the second day of Rosh Hashanah, changed that…a little.

A parent of one of my students (at the elementary school, not from college) invited me over for lunch. I knew they were a religious family, but they lived kind of far away to walk so I drove and parked a few blocks away from their beautiful house. I waited for about ten minutes, thinking they might’ve forgotten, or got held up at shul, when I saw a little salmon-colored dot run down the street towards me. That dot became little Michael, who wrapped me in a big hug, and his mother, Sarah, wasn’t far behind, with his little sister, and another couple and their two kids (again, all names changed for privacy). We went inside, made kiddush, and enjoyed a lovely homemade lunch, courtesy of Sarah. The golden ratio of 5 adults and 4 kids (well, more adults than kids is a golden ratio any way you slice it), we enjoyed our food in leisure. No one was checking their email, and only once did a phone ring (it was the house phone, and Sarah ignored it). I ate my fill of challah and honey, salad with pomegranate seeds, fish, stuffed chicken, corn muffins, mashed potatoes, spinach, and cherry pie for dessert, all while enjoying conversations about the plight of Roma in Central Europe, where to find the best kosher food in town, remembering our favorite food products from when we were kids that no longer existed, using FaceTime to keep up with family, and more. After saying Birkat Hamazon, there was no rush to clean up; people just brought in plates, forks, and food items leisurely, and we continued to schmooze in and around the kitchen. I updated Sarah on what we were covering in school, and chatted with the other couple about theater and Jewish customs, and our upbringings, and such. I was having such a casual and happy time that I was honestly shocked when I looked over at the oven clock and it was 5:00 PM, for a lunch that began at 2:00 PM.

Upon walking back to my car, getting in, and driving home, I was simultaneously on a holiday high and kind of sad to be returning from the religious world to the “real world.” When I got home, I realized that I had a meeting I wanted to go to at 5:30, but as I watched the clock tick by, I was like…nah, not a chance. I’m staying in bed and watching the sun set, and doing nothing else (well, at least until dance class at 9:30).

For all those times I hated Shabbat and holidays from preventing me from doing what I wanted as a kid, I started to really miss those days. I don’t know what my future will bring, but this year I really do want to at least try to get back to the comforting way things were back then. I was so busy the rest of the holiday with meetings, school, work commitments, that I barely got any Rosh Hashanah this year. This year, if and when I can, I will do my best to at least get a few solid hours of Shabbat/holiday time each time it comes up. Not necessarily being in shul all the time, but trying to eat meals in the sukkah, going to a Simchat Torah event, and spending at least a little of my Saturdays either meditating, or reading for fun, or just doing nothing but existing, completely disconnected from anything with an on/off button and not thinking about anything that might take up residence in my planner.

Long live happy days of religious bliss, no commitments, and nothing but time on my hands.